Summary of Manchester Law Society Committee’s 2015

  • 08/02/2016

Crown & Magistrates Court Committee

Chair of the Committee, Gwyn Lewis, Burton Copeland

The meetings of the committee in 2015 could be summarised to one word, uncertainty.

The changes which are affecting members in this particular area of law are unprecedented and 2015 saw a withdrawal of labour by solicitors conducting criminal legal aid work for the first time in living memory.

The committee continued to press forward the concerns of practitioners in relation to the legal aid contract announcements but unfortunately this uncertainty continues into 2016.

Views of members were received in relation to the consolidation of the Criminal Justice System and the closure of Courts and replies to the consultations were made. Many practical issues continued to be ironed out including provision of Wi-Fi for courts and the provision of the duty solicitor services on Saturday mornings at the now consolidated Manchester & Salford Court.

Whilst uncertainty will continue in this area we are sure that the committee will continue with its support of all practitioners through these times.

Web & Communication Committee

Chair of the Committee, Steve Kuncewicz, Bermans

Web & Communication Committee is very fortunate to have such a diverse and engaged membership, and 2015 mainly saw us meeting less frequently than either Chris or I would like, but looking at consolidating the Society’s online presence and looking at ways to make our offering even more relevant to the social media generation, thanks in large part to the continued and invaluable support of Dan and Adi from The E Word, without whom none of what we do would be possible.

The launch of the E-Newsletter was a major highlight and has been received extremely well by its audience and we’ve seen our social media presence continue to grow steadily on both LinkedIn and Twitter. Those that visit the website regularly (and you should) will have noticed the launch of our own “LawyerLocator” service and the ability to read back issues of the Messenger and we’re hoping to provide a richer experience over the course of the next year with more photos and features on our already packed events calendar. What matters, though, is that members tell us what they want from the Society’s Web & Communications, and a Survey on that topic will be making its way to you shortly. For now, though, make sure you follow @manlawsoc on Twitter for breaking news and updates.

Legal Education Committee

Chair of the Committee, Nick Davenport, Turner Parkinson

Manchester Law Society continues to view the provision of legal education as an important and vital service to its members. During 2015 the following courses and conferences were held:
22/01/2015 – Lord Neuberger Lecture
30/01/2015 – Trainee Solicitors Conference
25/02/2015 – Trust Me – I’m Your Manager
18/03/2015 – Civil Litigation Update
22/04/2015 – Managing With Impact
02/06/2015 – Solicitors Account Rules
11/06/2015 – Regulatory Conference
16/06/2015 – Family Law Conference
02/07/2015 – Noise Induced Hearing Loss
10/09/2015 – Newly Qualified Solicitors Conference
06/10/2015 – Management Conference
08/10/2015 – Employment Law Conference
14/10/2015 – Family Law Debate
05/11/2015 – Cyber Security & Risk in the Information Age
11/11/2015 – HHJ Potter – Crime
18/11/2015 – PA & Secretarial Conference
01/12/2015 – Travel Law

The conferences (most of which were full day events) were popular with members and were well attended.

Legal education events are planned by the Legal Education Committee of the Society, which meets every two months or so to provide guidance and assistance to the Society’s staff who arrange the agreed courses.

Legal education is a challenging area at present, not least because of the changes underway, and to come, in relation to continuing professional development. It is the intention of the Legal Education Committee to continue to devise conferences and courses that are relevant to members and provide to them cost effective continuing professional development.

Civil Litigation Committee

Chair of the Committee, Ian McConkey, DAC Beachcroft

I am the Regional Senior Partner of DAC Beachcroft LLP in Manchester and Chair of the Civil litigation Committee. The Committee comprises practitioners from across the whole spectrum of civil ligation in Manchester including personal injury and commercial litigation.  It provides a forum for practitioners who often find themselves on opposing sides to meet and discuss matters of common interest.

Members sit on the court user groups for the County Court, the TCC, Mercantile, Chancery and County Court Money Claims Centre. This provides an opportunity for matters of concern for practitioners to be passed on to the judiciary and court administrators and also for any issues to be communicated to practitioners.

The committee also consider consultation papers which impact on civil litigators and respond on behalf of the local profession. Recent examples include responding to the proposals in relation to court closures and increases in issue fees.

The committee assists with the provision of training and works closely with the Education committee to provide courses and events. Recently Manchester Law Society has hosted talks by Lord Justices Jackson and Neuberger

It is not necessary to be a Manchester Law Society Committee member to be involved in the Civil Litigation Committee and the Committee would welcome civil litigators who wish to get involved. Please contact MLS.

Regulatory Affairs Committee

Chair of the Committee, Michelle Garlick, Weightmans

The Regulatory Affairs Committee is not by any means the largest Committee of the Council. I like to think of it as small but perfectly formed! For those of you who read the Messenger from cover to cover, you will know that I provide a monthly update on what has been going on at the Cube (home of the SRA) and regulation generally. But what else do we do? The main responsibility is to respond to consultations issued by the SRA and it’s safe to say that the SRA like keeping us busy! In 2015, we responded to 3 main consultations on reporting accountant requirements, the removal of red tape and client financial protection. There are many more consultations in store for 2016 as the SRA is looking to change its approach to regulation once again and which could have a significant impact on you, both as firms and individuals, so if there is an issue which you feel strongly about, please do let us know either by emailing/speaking to Fran or myself or any other members of Council so that your views are taken into account. And finally, I must mention the annual Regulatory Affairs Conference which in 2015 was held in June which was a huge success. The SRA was there in force with opportunities to put questions and share views with the regulator. We also covered other practical topics including cyber risks, the compliance officer role and AML. The third annual conference will be held in 2016 on a date to be fixed but likely to be in June again.

Employment Law

Chair of the Committee, Michael Ball, Gateley Plc

The Committee underwent a significant and successful re-launch during 2015 thanks to the enthusiasm of a group of regular attenders with a view to generating greater interest in its activities and developing a broader group of participating members.

As a consequence external speakers have been invited to run facilitated discussions at the Committee meetings on a wide range of interesting topics ( to employment lawyers at least ) ranging from managing conflict in the workplace and whistle blowing through to holiday pay. The inclusion of this session will continue into 2016 with a discussion on the Trade Union Bill already arranged for 21st January 2016.

The Committee maintained its practice of commenting on requests for consultation with a paper in response to the call for submissions on the gender pay gap. Members have also continued to represent the Committee’s views on the Employment Tribunal Users Group.

A successful Annual Conference was held on 8th October 2015 at the Midland Hotel for 45 delegates who provided excellent feedback on the day. The Conference included key note speakers with Peter Monaghan from ACAS explaining why so little employment litigation has survived in the new regime which obviously delighted the members and Employment Judge David Franey gave an insight into “The Top 10 Things That Annoy Judges “ that was well received by a suitably chastened audience. Educational workshops were provided by local Counsel and provoked lively debate on what may or may not be best practice. Initial planning is underway for the 2016 Conference.

Having broadened its attendance base the Committee is looking forward to building on the work done during 2015 in the current year. Thanks are due in particular to the support received from Fran Eccles Bech and her team together with the members who have hosted meetings at their various offices whilst continuing to try and outdo each other in relation to the excessive amounts of food on offer.

Social & Inter-professional Committee

Chair of the Committee, Chris Sutton, JMW LLP

The aim of the committee is to help organise and promote social events for members to meet other lawyers and local business people. We all work very hard and it is important to be able to socialise after work with like-minded people.  All of the events are designed with that in mind and also to be as informal as possible to make for an enjoyable evening for all.  Over the last year the committee has organised many events including;

  • Manchester Legal Awards. The biggest event in the calendar for MLS with over 600 guests and becoming more popular each year.
  • Professionals Dinner Club at Fazenda, Fumo, Hotel Football, Mr Coopers House and Garden, Neighbourhood and Tattu with 50-90 people in attendance at each dinner. This is a very informal dinner event and is an opportunity to meet new people or dine with friends at great restaurants in Manchester at heavily discounted rates.
  • Newly Qualified Solicitors Ceremony hosted by the Lord Mayor at the Town Hall. All NQ’s were welcomed to the profession and able to share their achievement of with loved ones at an iconic Manchester venue.
  • Wine tasting hosted by MFL Professional.

We will aim to repeat all of the above for 2016 and hopefully add more events to the social calendar. New ideas are discussed on a regular basis at committee meetings and currently on the agenda are ideas for an event focused on the Euro 2016 football, a pub quiz and also a MLS choir.  Any new ideas from members of MLS are always welcome!

Family Law

Chair of the Committee, Kim Aucott, Slater Heelis LLP

Since its inception in 2014 your Family Law Committee has gone from strength to strength. 2015 saw it host its first all day conference. The Committee was delighted to welcome HHJ Wallwork who gave a very thought-provoking view from the bench, District Judge Graham Stewart who regaled delegates with his experiences as a practitioner and as a Judge with his insight into dealing with litigants in person and Sally Harrison QC, Susan Grocott QC and Alison Woodward who provided invaluable updates on finances and children. Delegates heard from a panel of experts on the “Pitfalls and Future of Family Law” and were able to quiz them about matters affecting their practice. The conference provided great value for delegates and in response to feedback the Committee is committed to making the family law conference an annual event. The next event will take place on 21st June 2016. Members, take note!

In the Autumn, the Committee held a lively and well attended debate on dispute resolution hosted by Exchange Chambers and chaired by Judith Fordham. The debate was kicked off by Alison Bull and Liz Cowell with a thought provoking video. Then, after highlighting the many benefits of mediation and arbitration for clients and for practitioners alike they made a passionate plea to practitioners to embrace DR and to alleviate the turmoil of a separating family. In response, Frances Heaton QC and Shaun Spencer argued that the unequal bargaining power of parties and the complexities of the law mean that DR leads to a failure to achieve justice for clients but increases their expenses at the hands of the “Dark Angels” aka the mediators! After throwing the matter to the floor for questions and comments the motion was put to the vote with a resounding win for the motion that “this house believes that generally speaking, resolving family disputes outside court proceedings is better for families”.

The Committee set out to provide first class training for members, to strengthen relationships with other agencies and to provide a forum for members to get together and to share concerns. Both the conference and the debate provided valuable opportunities for delegates to catch up with colleagues and to network and succeeded in bringing members together.

As the proposed closure of courts will affect all our practices, the Committee took soundings from members and responded to the Consultation on a Single Local Justice Area for Greater Manchester.

Your Committee comprises solicitors (from private practice and from local authority) and barristers who all share a passion for family law and the concerns that affect us all. In 2016 the Committee hopes to build on the success of its training and to continue to deal with the issues that impact us all. Your feedback and your support of the activities are invaluable. Please contact the Committee if you have suggestions or questions on matters close to your family law practice.